An Ode to the Ominously Awesome time of Year we call Halloween.
Why do I love Halloween so much?
Well, my darklings, let me count the ways...
PHOTO: Dracula's Castle, from the 1931 Universal Pictures film.
Halloween marks the wonderful time of year that darkness falls earlier, where the colour of choice, for me anyway, seems to suddenly black and orange, and the wind begins to howl more loudly and regularly as stormy weather encroaches.
The darkness is a perfect environment to contemplate the cosmos, you may feel the urge to light a fire to comfort you, or keep you warm as you read some macabre poetry.
The Dance of Death
by Charles Baudelaire
(To Ernest Christophe)
Proud, as a living person, of her height,
Her scarf and gloves and huge bouquet of roses,
She shows such nonchalance and ease as might
A thin coquette excessive in her poses.
Who, at a ball, has seen a form so slim?
Her sumptuous skirts extravagantly shower
To a dry foot that, exquisitely trim,
Her footwear pinches, dainty as a flower.
The frills that rub her collarbone, and feel,
Like a lascivious rill against a rock,
The charms she is so anxious to conceal,
Defend them, too, from ridicule and mock.
Her eyes are formed of emptiness and shade.
Her skull, with flowers so deftly decked about,
Upon her dainty vertebrae is swayed.
Oh what a charm when nullity tricks out!
"Caricature," some might opine, but wrongly,
Whose hearts, too drunk with flesh that runs to waste,
Ignore the grace of what upholds so strongly.
Tall skeleton, you match my dearest taste!
Come you to trouble with your strong grimace,
The feast of life? Or has some old desire
Rowelled your living carcase from its place
And sent you, credulous, to feed its fire?
With tunes of fiddles and the flames of candles,
Hope you to chase the nightmare far apart,
Or with a flood of orgies, feasts, and scandals
To quench the bell that's lighted in your heart?
Exhaustless well of follies and of faults,
Of the old woe the alembic and the urn,
Around your trellised ribs, in new assaults,
I see the insatiable serpent turn.
I fear your coquetry's not worth the strain,
The prize not worth the effort you prolong.
Could mortal hearts your railleries explain?
The joys of horror only charm the strong.
The pits of your dark eyes dread fancies breathe,
And vertigo. Among the dancers prudent,
Hope not your sixteen pairs of smiling teeth
Will ever find a contemplative student.
Yet who's not squeezed a skeleton with passion?
Nor ravened with his kisses on the meat
Of charnels. What of costume, scent, or fashion?
The man who feigns disgust, betrays conceit.
O noseless geisha, unresisted gouge!
Tell these fastidious feigners, from your husk —
"Proud fondling fools, in spite of talc and rouge,
You smell of death. Anatomies of musk,
Withered Antinouses, beaux of dunder,
Corpses in varnish, Lovelaces of bone,
The dance of death, with universal thunder,
Is whirling you to places yet unknown!
From Seine to Ganges frolicking about,
You see not, through a black hole in the ceiling,
Like a great blunderbus, with funnelled snout,
The Angel's trumpet, on the point of pealing.
in every clime, Death studies your devices
And vain contortions, laughable Humanity,
And oft, like you, perfumes herself with spices
Mixing her irony with your insanity!"
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)
Some of my favorites are John Milton, William Blake, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson poetry, so curl up in your velvet wing chair by the fire.
Anything illustrated by Gustav Dore, Henry Clarke, or Edmund Dulac...
PHOTO: Gustav Dore's 1884 illustration for Poe's Tales of Mystery and the Imagination, The Raven poem.
CARVING PUMPKINS, LETS YOUR DARK WILD SIDE OUT
Call me crazy but I would always get excited about carving the pumpkin, the more grotesque the punkin' face, the better. I always loved gargoyles, too so perhaps there is a correlation between the two. There are many cultures who have long used light and lanterns to ward off evil spirits that come during the night.
PHOTO: a Jack-o'-lantern made from a turnip, Museum of Country Life, Ireland.
Originally, white turnips were used to make Jack-O-Lanterns, the first were believed to be traditionally for Samhain, or All Hallow's Eve in Scotland, Ireland, and many other Celtic regions.
Punkie Night traditions began in Somerset, on the last Thursday in October, with songs and rhymes, the origins of our trick or treat greeting, were ones like this: "Give me a candle, give me a light If you don't, you'll get a fright."
The Victornians began to carve the vibrant orange iconic pumpkin, there are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins, so there is a multitude to choose from to express your dark creative carving skills.
Firstly, Autumn is my favorite time of year because the leaves change colour to brilliant orange, yellow, burgundy, a blaze of fiery grandeur before the November winds blow them all off the trees.
Autumn Leaves by Carmen Zavislake
Picnics, day hikes, and bike rides are still great outings in the Autumn, or a lovely walk in the woods to see the changing colours of the leaves.
BUNDLING UP & GETTING COZY
As the weather cools down we bundle up in cozy wool sweaters, velvet, velour, corduroy, and fuzzy fleeces, so we can still enjoy the outdoors.
In our primal urge to stay warm we snuggle in a little closer to those we love, we lean in a little closer to hear a conversation, or just cuddling in a little more, and all of that is good for relationships in general.
SPICE IT UP
Heat things up with more of your favorite hot sauces to keep your body core temperature up.
Aromatic spices like cardamom which is the main delight in Turkish coffee the warm spiciness and density, give a lovely aromaitic as well as sweet punch.
Warm and comforting, sweet and creamy Mexican hot chocolate with the kick of chili pepper, perfect to quicken the senses and circulation.
CAULDRONS OF JOY
More soups, chilli, and soothing stews this time of year and well in to the cold Winter, we dust off the cauldron around Halloween, to keep it handy.
Warm liquids give ups comfort in the chill such as mulled apple cider, mulled cranberry juice, mulled wine, hot chocolate, or even having a Hot Pot, or bubbling fondue for dinner makes me think of our distant ancestors who dwelled in caves and cooked in clay pots.
PHOTO: This cool-looking cauldron is available from the Gallops Architectural online store.
GATHERING AROUND THE FIRE
Gathering around the fireplace, the hearth is the tribal core where we love to congregate and tell spooky stories, jokes, or just spend quality time together.
PHOTO: Samhain bonfire, courtesy of the Soma Luna web site
There is something truly comforting, other than the warmth of the actual flames, in the pitch darkness of the long nights, the light of the fire is hypnotic, entrancing, and for me plain old magical.
Not to mention, if you get hungry ,you can grb a stick, whittle a point and roast a weenie over it. And for desert, marshmallow, or the trio of graham wafers, chocolate and marshmallows, pure alchemy. Warm, fed, and happy!!!
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Halloween is a perfect time of year to read anything by the virtuoso of the vile, the skillful spinner of spooky stories, the one and only Edgar Allan Poe. The few daguerrotypes taken of Poe show a melancholy, meek, man.
His very life reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, a Gothic novel and even his mysterious death, how he was buried uncerermoniusly originally completely unmarked, overgrown with weeds, then later given the anonymous designation #80, forgotten. But, eventually his cousin Neilson would erect a marble headstone to mark Edgar's grave, but a freak train accident destroys it completely. Such a cruel fate his destiny held one which would have plagued his nightmares. In 1874 his body was exhumed and moved, and then again in 1913 another stone is inaccurately placed closer to where his original unmarked grave was. Absoluetely Dreadful!!! (SOURCE: Edgar Allan Poe's Grave - Atlas Obscura)
The Complete Poems & Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, paperback edition
When I was at university, studing Gothic and British literature and poetry, there was a power outage during a storm, the wind had blown down branches that knocked out the power. That term I had been lucky enough to be studying Poe, I happened to have a flashlight by which to read aloud to my room mate, Carla from Flon Flon, Manitoba. I read The Gold Bug, and then some classic poetry. Although by today's standards you may not find Poe "scary" but there is a wonderful uncanniness, a delightful sublimity, and primal fears he so subtly taps into.
PHOTO: Vintage ad for Black Bat black licorice
My favorite things to get in my Trick-or-Treat loot was always things that were black licorice, such as Goodies/Good & Plenty, Black Bart gum, and Black Licorice pipes.
Have you ever heard of Meloids?
Sadly, no longer available anywhere, although you cannot taste or eat them anymore, you can still find the vintage and antique tins for sale in decent shape, but it will cost you. I remember trying these bat guano-sized crops, I remember reading the tin and seeing the word "pastilles" for the first time and marvelling at the ingenious dispensing mechanism of the tin. Thus, began the stange love/hate relationship with the bizarre taste of them, I wanted more but they were oh so difficult to find even back then when they were still being made. Meloids, rest in peace.
VINTAGE MACABRE SPOOKY SWEETS
Tastes like nothing but sure is fun to chew are the wonderful wax vampire teeth, pure nostalgia the Wack-A-Wax Vampire Teeth by Tootsie Roll.
I adore the vintage Halloween candy that was macabre such as the candy coffins, the Rosbro skeleton containers, Mr. Bones were awesome!!
PHOTO: Mr. Bones Puzzle Candy courtesy of CollectingCandy.Com
Who can forget the macabre and delightful Wacky Packages by Topps. Great art work and stomach churning at the same wonderful time.
PHOTOS: Courtesy of WackyPackages.Com
Topps Wacky Packages perfect for Halloween: Coffin Crisp Honey-Tomb, Mike and Yikes, Zomb'a Crunch, Cracker Drac, Ork, Playskull, Coffin Cakes, Ghoulette, and so many quirky and queasy others.
Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo-Berry cereal made by General Mills feeling naughty eating dessert for breakfast because you can...once in a while. Now available in Mummy and Werewolf designs.
OLD BLACK & WHITE HORROR MOVIES
Why? You may be asking when there are so many amazing horror films by Hammer Studios, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and so much more...True, enough, but there is something so nostalgic and enchanting in the stark black and white that makes each frame a piece of art.
PHOTO: Still from the German Expressionist silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920
The first silent horror film was perhaps the 1896 silent The Haunted Castle by Georges Méliès.
Edison's Kinetogram silent made in 1910 perhaps the first adaptation of Mary's Shelley's Frankenstein.
Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror is one of the first cases of plagarism and copyright infringement of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Despite that, Nosferatu is a gem of German Expressionism cinema.
Old Black & White horror films, or anything with Lon Chaney (Senior and Junior), Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi. While I totally enjoy Hammer Horror films and many of the modern colour versions, there is something so utterly enchanting about the start monochromatic black and white horror films of olde. I love the deep shadows and stark lighing, the "chiaroscuro" transports us back into the past where monsters dwell.
Lon Chaney, Senior (Leonidas) as Quasimodo and Phantom of the Opera in the iconic silents
Lon Chaney, Junior (Creighton) in The Wolfman, Universal Pictures 1941
Bela Lugosi in Dracula, Universal Pictures, 1931
Boris Karloff as The Creature with no name, and Imhotep
Peter Lorre in Mad Love, 1935
Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankensein, Universal Pictures 1935
Vincent Price as Nicholas van Ryn in Dragonwyck, 1946
John Barrymore in the 1920 silent film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Man Who Laughs, 1928 staring Conrad Veidt
Barbara Steele in Mario Bava's Black Sunday, 1960
SCREAMING IN TERRROR
Horror and terror go hand in hand, they are part of the same dark delight.
PHOTO: Janet Leigh in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho
Terror can be fun too, once you realize it isn't real, I came out of the womb a total insomniac so as a child, I would tip-toe downstairs and quietly turn on the television and watch the original The Twlight Zone series by the incredible Rod Serling. The one that really freaked me out was The Invaders, Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, Night Call, Eye of the Beholder, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, The Dummy, Nothing In The Dark, and Time Enough.
PHOTO:Original Twilight Zone episode, Eye of The Beholder, Courtesy of CBS Archive
The Birds, which I watched from behind the hide-a-bed (when I was supposed to be sleeping) in the family Rumpus Room. Whilst my parents were hardly watching, more talking and catching up on their day in conversation, I watched peeking over the top of the sofa and was scared as Hell. Thank you, Hitch for your legacy of spookiness and job well done. From the early silent films like The Lodger, to the first clever use of sound, to Psycho, Spellbound, Family Plot.
PHOTO: Mother Bates' shrivelled mummified corpse
Here are some great quotes about making us scream in terror and horror, giving us goosebumps and shivers, and just scaring us:
At a French airport one day, the customs official looked suspiciously at Alfred Hitchcock's passport; his occupation was listed simply as "Producer."
"What do you produce?" he asked.
"Gooseflesh," Hitchcock answered.
"I can hear them scream"
Alfred Hitchcock never watched his films in a real theatre setting. Once he was asked whether he missed the thrill of hearing audience members scream.
"No," replied Hitchcock. "I can hear them scream when I'm making the picture."
One day when Alfred Hitchcock was still a churchgoing Catholic, he was driving through a Swiss city when he suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, "That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen."
His companion was surprised to see nothing more alarming than a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the child's shoulder.
"Run, little boy," cried Hitchcock, leaning out of the car. "Run for your life!"
(SOURCE: The Gold Scales web site:http://oaks.nvg.org/hitchcock.html)
I could do a whole, seperate blog on Tod Browning, but I must mention his 1932 film, Freaks, an unnerving, atmospheric, creepy masterpiece. But, the above still says it all.
Oh, the terror!!!
Although it is not in black-and-white, the impact on me is monumental. As a kid when I saw Jaws at the local Drive-In theatre, it took me a long time to reassure myself that the killer rogue shark was not going to come through the pipes into the bathtub...or the lake, or the swimming pool, or while swimming in the actual ocean, forget about it, not going to happen.
I don't know about your, but isn't it som much fun to be scared? You know the good scared like walking though a haunted house, castle ruins, or immersing yourself in the walking communal nightmare that is the horror film.
For me likely one of the reasons I started this web page is the goosebump factor, the shivers, the chills that run down your spine, that moment when the hair on the back of your neck pricks up like a frightened cat.
PHOTO: Film still from The Cat and the Canary, 1927.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, FRISSON, is the French word for shiver:
Pronunciation: /ˈfriːsɔ̃/ /ˈfrɪsɒn/
Definition of frisson in English: noun
A sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill: a frisson of excitement
Origin: Late 18th century: French, 'a shiver or thrill'.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Erin Coupland
Many things can induce the shiver of delight: a storm which includes window-rattling thunder and spectacular lightning strikes.
PHOTO: Frontspiece by the first artist to illustrate Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, the illustrator is Theodore von Holst, published in 1831.
A sublime piece of poetry, literature, or music, can also give you a frisson. A macabre and magnificent work of art like a grotesque Goya, Fuseli, Rubens, or Caravaggio painting, eerie castle etching, an marvelous marble sculpture which looks startlingly real, and alive can produce shivers of delight.
PHOTO: The Head of Medusa by Peter Paul Rubens, made in 1617-18.
PHOTO: Fuseli's iconic painting The Nightmare
THE FABULOUS ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA
Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) to me is the absolute God of horror pulp fiction cover art, even if you don't know his name you have at some point come across his deeply impactful fantasy art.
HAPPY ALL HALLOW'S EVENING TO YOU ALL!!!
PHOTO: Painting by Chris Mars